Why is the Court Poor Box System Dying?3 min readReading Time: 3 minutes
Parking tickets and fines have been the bane of existence for urban drivers worldwide. With increasing congestion in big cities, not to mention municipalities being cash-strapped, parking fines and tickets are being written-off with increasing frequency. Get too many of those slapped on your windshield, and you risk a conviction. This is where the court poor box system come in.
Having a statutory fine or a conviction on your name can wreak havoc on your auto insurance. But there’s a way to get out of this situation with an unsullied driving record – the ‘Court Poor Box’ system. This system has existed for a long time and has been recently under fire by many Irish road safety groups. But before we discuss that, let’s understand what the system is.
What is the Court Poor Box System?
Put simply, under this system, any person accused of any offense for the first time, including illegal parking, can donate to a charity to avoid conviction. The charity to which the donation is made is chosen by the district court’s judge.
The advantages of giving a first-time offender a chance to avoid conviction while simultaneously benefiting charities are obvious.
It also enables courts to determine an appropriate outcome in regards to all the circumstances surrounding a case, thus reducing or avoiding the need to record a term of imprisonment or conviction.
For instance, if a person who drives for a living is charged for a minor road traffic offense, they may suffer disproportionately if they’re disqualified from driving as a result. Moreover, charities that receive donations from court poor box funds are often linked to the type of crime committed.
Court Poor Box System: Criticism
The Court Poor Box system has been criticized by many Irish road safety groups, including the RSA (road safety authority), particularly due to its use in scenarios where a conviction resulted in the imposition of penalty points.
As a result, in 2014, ruled out the use of the Court Poor Box for penalty point offenses from under the Road Traffic Act 2010. In such cases, the use of poor boxes really undermines road-safety measures.
In 2020, a total of 13 cases of Court Poor Box usage was recorded by the District Court. However, these were availed of by only nine drivers, which means some drivers got the poor box benefit more than once, which completely defeats the purpose.
Another argument against the poor box system is that it enables the rich to buy their way out of a term of imprisonment or conviction. This can lead to a negative public perception of the system, which is damaging to the administration of justice.
Plus, the figures issued by Irish Court Services regarding parking offenses did not distinguish prohibited and dangerous parking offenses from the regular ones.
Dangerous parking offenses attract higher fines and more penalty points. If the fine isn’t cleared within 28 days, it’ll be bumped up. If convicted, you’ll accrue five penalty points and over 20 times the usual fine.
Due to these reasons, many parking offenders run scot-free without any accountability for their violations against road safety.
Though the Court Poor Box system allows first-time offenders who have unwittingly violated a law a way around conviction, its blatant misuse has put it in a negative light, especially when it comes to road safety violations.
As a result, the system is gradually being let go in many parts of the world, or the provisions under it are being reduced so as to not be misused.